Morganton Day School Faculty and Staff
Please feel free to contact us for more information or questions.
Melanie Mikusa Ed.D, Head of School
Morganton Day School has been an important part of my life for almost 20 years. I began my MDS career in 1996 teaching Kinders and 1st grade. Creating an environment of joyful learning sparked my own interest in returning to school, penultimately becoming National Board certified and earning my Master’s degree in Reading and Special Education. Recently, I completed my Doctorate in Educational Leadership. It is my privilege to work with the finest students, faculty/staff, parents, and dedicated board everyday. As an IB school, we are a community of global citizens preparing to play an important role in the future.
Denise Pitts, Office Manager
During my 10 years at MDS, I have enjoyed watching as the children race to class each morning. The atmosphere in the school promotes learning; I am extremely happy to spend each day in this extremely engaging environment. In addition to my role as Office Manager, I often find myself bandaging boo-boos and taking temperatures. Every day is a wonderful adventure at MDS!
Treesie Cape, Curriculum Coordinator
As a member of the MDS community for fifteen years, I am passionate about the teaching and learning that takes place at this school! Throughout my time here, I am honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of collaboration as a teacher, parent, and now as the curriculum coordinator. I bring with me a bachelor’s degree in education, a master’s degree in administration, certification in Orton-Gillingham and All Kinds of Minds, and certification as an IB educator. My two children also attend Morganton Day School in first and fourth grades. I cherish the frequent opportunities to support the concepts learned at school through conversations at home and interwoven into our daily lives.
Lower School Faculty
Casey Bonkowske, Junior Kindergarten
I am a wife and mother of two. My husband works for Morganton Eye Physicians as a Corneal Specialist. My daughter, Taryn, and my son, Jacoby, both attend Morganton Day School. I graduated from University of Missouri with a B.S. degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. I then received my Masters Degree in Administration from William Woods University. I now have over 10 years teaching experience. In addition to my work in the classroom, I was also a Literacy Coach for elementary educators for one year as well as a Primary Reading Teacher for one year in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School District. I wholeheartedly believe in our IB curriculum and I am honored to foster and develop inquirers in our JK program. There is nothing more beautiful than witnessing and embracing the innate curiosity that a child has, and we love to celebrate that in our program. As a mom and a teacher, I am excited to be a part of this journey along side of you!
Julie Hefner, Junior Kindergarten
I have 14 years experience teaching preschool, and it never gets boring! Every day brings something new. I love to see the world through the eyes of preschoolers. I live in Lenoir and was a parent of MDS before I taught here. I stumbled across MDS quite by chance and was thrilled to realize there was a school that believed so strongly in teaching to the individual child in a real world manner. I wanted that for my own children and was thrilled when the opportunity to teach here became available. I am passionate about creating a love of learning in children and look for ways to make learning as natural and fun as possible! When I am not at work, I love spending time with my husband and two boys hiking, reading and playing games.
Learn more by visiting the Junior Kindergarten class page
Having been born and raised in Morganton, my heart lies in it’s future. The future of our community walks through my door each morning, so I make it my goal to send back out my door hands willing to make a change, no matter how small those hands may be! Education is a scaffolding event, and the love of education is deep rooted within those who are met at their level of readiness from the start. Here at Morganton Day School I have the power to do just that for each precious learner that comes my way. What a privilege! Having graduated from Lees McRae College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education, I am certain that inquiry methods are best for learning. I have many hobbies some of which include: crossfit, running, hiking, enjoying time with my husband and dog, and reading.
Learn more by visiting the Kinders’ class page
Elizabeth O’Hagan, 1st grade/Librarian
William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” I am proud to help fan the flames at Morganton Day School. As volunteer librarian, I have worked for the last three years cataloging, updating and expanding our book collection in order to provide more fuel for young minds on fire. I am thrilled to enter the classroom this year in 1st grade. Early education is vital to future school success. As the mother of three Morganton Day School students (one alumni) I deeply appreciate the philosophy of the school and dedication of the faculty. My own education includes a BS of Psychology from Lees-McRae College and work toward completion of a Masters Degree from Lenoir Rhyne University.
Learn more by visiting the 1st grade class page
Stephanie Cook, 2nd Grade
I am very passionate about teaching, and I believe every child can learn. I consider myself a lifelong learner, and enjoy attending conferences and workshops to learn more about education. I am excited to teach and find it unbelievable that this will be my third year teaching second grade at Morganton Day School. As a graduate of Lees-McRae College, with a BS in Elementary Education, I believe the inquiry method of instruction at MDS is the best way to nurture students’ natural curiosity. In my free time, I enjoy reading, hiking, and spending time with my two daughters, who also attend MDS.
Jenna Holt, 3rd Grade
When I moved to Morganton and visited MDS I knew this was the place I wanted to teach! Students were spread out all over the room but actively engaged in their work. I have been privileged to be a teacher at MDS for 10 years and plan to stay here FOREVER!!!! MDS offers a genuine learning environment where every child can thrive. As our curriculum is hands on/minds on, students explore the world around them and make real connections, building a strong foundation for a lifetime of learning. My education: I am a graduate of Lynchburg College in Virginia with a BA in Child Development with certification K-6. I also hold a Master’s Degree from Appalachian State University in Middle Grades Social Studies. Outside of MDS I love spending time with my family, kayaking, going to the beach, and reading a great book!
Learn more by visiting the 3rd grade class page
Hillary Kline, 4th Grade
Ashley Craft, Music
My name is Ashley Craft and I teach MUSIC at MDS. This is my eleventh year in teaching and my seventh year at MDS. I teach at MDS because I believe in inquiry-based learning and in the importance of a strong educational community. I have a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Gardner Webb University. Outside of the classroom, I love spending time outdoors and enjoying time with my friends and family.
Middle Grades Faculty
Andrew Field, Middle School/English
Hello! I’m Mr. Field. Welcome to Middle School English! I look forward to getting to know you. A bit about me: I’m from the West, and have lived in six different states. I went the University of New Mexico and took my B.A. in English in 2011. I continued my education at the University of South Carolina where I took an M.A. degree in English in 2013. I come to MDS from Midlands Technical College in Columbia , where I was an adjunct instructor of English. In my meager spare time, that is when I’m not teaching, writing, or reading, I get a lot out of rock climbing, cycling and spending time with friends.
Britta Gramer, Humanities/STEAM Coordinator
Having been a part of the MDS community for 7 years, I have been privileged to wear many hats in the MDS Middle School. Currently, I teach 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Humanities, I co-teach our S.T.E.A.M. class, help with electives, oversee S.A.C. (Student Action Council), and coordinate numerous middle school activities and events. I am a graduate of Appalachian State University with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and a minor in Biology, a middle grades teaching certification in social studies and science, and am currently working on a master’s degree in liberal studies from UNCG. My passions include spending time with my family, taking a VARIETY of classes and workshops, seeing live music, learning to work with plants, understanding biomimicry, and just learning to fully process this journey called life. And when I grow up, I want to work for National Geographic or the United Nations. A quote that inspires my daily work with students is, “ If you want a group to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” With each lesson I create and teach for my students, it is my desire to inspire in them ‘a yearning for the vast and endless sea” so that they may go forward with a desire to learn and become mindful humans that can handle the challenges within their families, their communities, nation, and this globally, interdependent world.
Heide Putt, Math & Algebra
Upon completing my Masters in Education, I began my classroom teaching career in a Montessori middle school classroom in Charlotte over 20 years ago. After teaching all subjects in the middle school program for 10 years, I moved into middle and high school administration. Teaching, especially at the middle school level has always been my first love and so I feel very blessed to have landed at Morganton Day. In addition, the Montessori philosophy and the IB philosophy of Morganton Day are very similar, so I feel quite at home here. Most recently, I have worked at WPCC teaching math study skills as well as tutoring math and science students. In my classroom I strive to create an atmosphere of mutual respect where every student feels empowered to ask questions and confident in their gifts both in and out of the math classroom. Each year, I look forward to getting to know all the new MDS middle school students and families as well as reflecting upon how the returning students have grown.
Sarah Sawdy, Science
Carolina Barbosa, Spanish
Hola! My name is Mrs. Barbosa, I grew up in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. I graduated as a Child Psychologist from Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (UANL) in 2010. I started working as a Teacher Assistant in 2008 in a private school in Mexico and worked there for 2 years. When I graduated, I decided to move to North Carolina with my husband and start a new life together. As a bilingual person, I know that learning to speak a second language is really important. Spanish is in the top five languages spoken around the world, so being able to read, speak, and understand it will open a lot of doors for anyone who is interested. This school year 2014-2015 is my third year working in MDS. I collaborate with each teacher incorporating IB units and Spanish curriculum, so students are exposed to the language and the culture all the time during my class.
Kaylee Smith, Technology
Hello! With this being my first year at MDS I cannot express how excited I am to be part of such a close-knit school and community. I graduated from Western Carolina University in 2013 with my B.S. in Middle Grades Education with concentrations in Math & Science. I taught 8th grade for two years in Forsyth County and just moved back to Morganton (which is where I grew up) in the summer of 2015. My baby, Lucas, is the center of my world and it makes me happy to know that Morganton Day School will be where he goes when he is old enough! One of my favorite quotes is from the marvelous Walt Disney: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” I feel like here at MDS we encourage our students to do just that and I am so proud to be a part of it!
Trudy Memmel, PE & Health
Fitness has always been my passion. After graduating from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, I have taught Physical Education and Health in Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina for 10 years. Through Health and Physical Education, students are able to develop and practice healthy habits that will enhance their lives. I believe that it is very important to lead by example. Whenever possible I involve myself in activities that promote a healthy lifestyle. This includes events such as performance workouts, swimming, biking, running, pilates, yoga, and the occasional competitions such as 5K , 10K, races and sprint triathlons. I have lived in Morganton for over 20 years. My husband and I have raised our four boys in North Carolina and have enjoyed the active lifestyle that this area offers. I am passionate about physical education and the mental and physical benefits it provides.
Kara Jones, Visual Arts
Mrs, Lauren Carlson and Joan Pulliam, Afterschool Providers